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I want to learn how to carry a tune.

Can a person be born with Perfect Pitch or tone deaf? Pitch Test

Learn why people of tonal language speaking cultures have perfect pitch and other cultures DON'T.

Is there software that will teach me how to sing in tune? Before you spend money learn the facts about PERFECT PITCH

Auditory Hearing Processing Disorder - Frontal Lobe

Dr. Tomatis Method - Tomatis Electronic Ear is a tool for helping children overcome auditory processing difficulties.

1997 Discussion

From: Ruth King Goddard MA Joy of Music Co. Everett, WA
II have been working over 20 years with adults who couldn't match pitches. I have been overwhelmed with the tonally illiterate culture we have. Over the last six years, I've developed a curriculum for children in their language learning years (3-7) which equips them with basic tonal, written, timing skills of the musical language. The principles can apply to any age.
A major piece of the tonal-development aspect is activating a child's tonal portion of the brain. I begin with basic "what do you hear?" exercises. (ie, people talking, doors closing, etc.) I use various "mystery" boxes and other items with different resonating sounds to help discrimination skills grow.
We do a lot of echoes, not even singing at first, just vocalizing on silly nonsense sounds utilizing high and low, slides, etc. I also help them understand the difference of high and low, using various animal sounds. Most children who come from non-singing homes, have no idea that they have a voice beyond their speaking voice ("chest register"), unless it is used for baby- talk"head-register"). By using the aforementioned exercises, they find their head register, which I define as their singing voice. If they focus on developing this, the rest of their singing voice ("chest register") will come along.
This particular child may need to be helped to understand the difference between her shouting voice and her singing voice. Initially I identify their 4 voices: talking, whisper, shouting and singing. By doing a simple song in EACH of these voices (use their "INSIDE shouting voice"!!) they begin to understand the difference sensations of using the singing voice. As they get confidence, its fun to change the four voices within a song. Exciting!!!
From about 5 years old and through adults, the critical exercise is learning to "think" a tone before singing it. This was a natural piece in the language development years, but if a child did not have the opportunity (or affirmation) to explore vocally in those years, this piece of their brain may not be activated. It's really very simple, but takes constant reminders to create the confidence of a habit.
1. Hear sound
2.Think (remember) the sound
3. sing the sound.
I am working to get the curriculum published. It is presently being used by teachers I contract with, providing music-nurturing in childcare and preschools. I am also available for workshops and teacher training.
If you'd like more info, please let me know. This is a passionate area for me.
"Tone-deafness" is a myth. Everyone can sing, if given the proper support. My own son who is now 15 was not consistent with his pitches until he was 12. He was too busy with other things (ADHD). I was always careful not to shame him for his pitch problems, but instead, matched to his pitches so he could experience intonation. It worked. He's been asked to be in a men's quartet, so even though he didn't go by the accepted "schedule" of musical development, he is now a singer! If a child gets the idea that they can't sing, then they won't. But that's another whole topic......

Carry a Tune software

From: Greta Pedersen Motivating Children Towards Music by Greta Pedersen
I found Ruth King Goddard's story to be exciting and encouraging. Great ideas on how to teach people to find and use their singing voices.
Question: do you use this technique in the music classroom (to avoid isolating people)? Do you have special classes for people who have come to you to learn how to sing? What are the various ways you have used it?
Hear is what I've done; it helps most people:
I have found most children who sing off key also sing very loudly. It seems they can't hear, or aren't trained to hear, others people, or the piano, or some kind of pitch cue.
In my choirs and classrooms, I used humor to demonstrate (and discourage) what I called "shout singing". It always got a lot of laughs, and the kids got the point immediately.
I also encouraged them to listen to each other; if they could hear only other people and not themselves, they could sing louder, and if they could only hear themselves and not other people, they needed to sing more softly.
I had to repeat this more than once, but it was very helpful.
This technique helped "Lucy", a first grader, who sang most enthusiastically, following the basic shape of the melody, but always a 4th or 5th interval higher than everyone else! Over the course of two years, encouraging her ("you have a very pretty voice; it's even prettier when you sing a bit softer") her pitch gradually came down to the rest of the class. At the end of two years, she sang a group solo at the spring concert (with the two strongest singers on either side of her) and did a great job.
I agree that "tone deafness is a myth."

From: Deborah
Just adding my two cents worth in addition to the excellent information given by Ruth.
It is also important that you allow the child to sing without backing the voice with the piano or any other instrument. The overtones of certain instruments, especially the piano,make it more difficult for the child to "tune-in" to the pitch.
One thing that Ruth mentioned about not shaming a child or making a child feel self conscious about his/her voice is extremely important. I tell the children that their voices are as unique as a fingerprint. No one has a voice identical to theirs.
If they are having difficulty with certain ranges, then sometimes I tell them to sing more softly so that they can hear those pitches being sung around them, (provided I have placed the struggling singer next to strong singers) and that will help them blend their voices. Another thing that I found very interesting is something that I learned from Sister Lorna Zemke. She said that there are parts of the ear that are not fully developed until around the age of 9. I'm not sure if it's the inner ear canal or what. If someone knows about this, I'd be interested in having that info.

From Wampeter99
"Tone-deafness" is a myth. Everyone can sing, if given the proper support. I completely agree!!
I start in first grade with solfege and the Kodaly hand signs. We LISTEN to each pitch for about 30 seconds before attempting to sing it. Singing is can't tell them this enough. The hand signs also help: when the students do the hand signs with me, they know when their hand goes up a step, their voice should follow. Visuals have worked wonders for me. By third grade I can do any interval withing the octave (starting with DO) and the can sing it a cappella. They can also find DO on their own most of the time without my playing it first.

Music | Sing in Tune

2005 8 Years Later

Matching Pitch - Primary ~Larry Hill
Here are some things I do:
1) Some children get used to singing either higher or lower than everyone else - probably subconsciously so that they can hear themselves. When a child sings with the group, often the group sound is louder than their voice. If they sing in unison, they can't hear themselves. Tell them this is probably what is going on and that if they sing in unison, sometimes it feels like the sound is outside them rather than coming from their mouths and this is when they are singing correctly. If they hear themselves well, itis probably not the correct sound.
2) Do some echo singing regularly that you keep a rubric response form. I do a singing role call - starting with Sol-Mi after we have sung several Sol-Mi songs.

I use:

  • 4 - echoes same tune same pitch
  • 3 - echoes same tune different pitch
  • 2 - echoes different tune (hardly ever happens)
  • 1 - speaks the response
  • 0 - no response

If I give a 3 - I indicate beside the number with an up or down arrow indicating which direction they were off.

Sometimes I put a + beside a 4 for an exceptionally pure sounding voice (use them for models).

If someone is consistently lower, I try them with a lower pitch than the rest of the class to see if they will echo there.

3) If a student is consistently lower, I have them sing and oo and slide up to the pitch (or vice versa - encourage relaxation if they sing too high). If successful, I have them show with their hand in front of them where they feel like the sound is, then try to start on that pitch rather than sliding up/down to get there.

4) If successful making the pitch but still not in unison with others, I have them start a pitch (on oo) and then I match them them. Sometimes as I join, they will slide from their pitch in the direction of their habitual error. Tell them to stay and not slide and then do it again. When you get a unison - tell them that is it correct (That's it!) and ask if it feels like the sound is outside them. See if they feel the beats in the air if the pitch is close but slightly off. Tell them that the slower the beats are, the better. Eventually a sense of unison develops.

5) If a student has trouble finding their singing voice, do sirens with the class and then give the child a homework assignment to do sirens at home by themselves, seeing how high and how low they can go. Children need to hear themselves singing by themselves in order for the brain to process correctly and learn how to control the muscles in order to make a desired pitch. Often a child comes back the next week after a "homework" assignment singing in tune with the rest of the class.
Usually if the ear hears the voice making different sounds in the singing range, the brain will figure out which nerves to trigger to make those sounds again - just like a baby learning to go from random involuntary motions to muscle control.
I tell my students that every child has a beautiful singing voice, but some haven't learned how to use it. It is like buried treasure in their back yard. If no one helps them by giving them a map or helping them dig, they won't get the treasure. If they will allow me help them (by cooperating with my requests), they will find the treasure and have it to use to make beautiful music the rest of their lives.
Can't tell your gender from your name. If male, learn to use falsetto (your boy's voice) when demonstrating for younger children.

Matching Pitch - Primary ~ Ruth
Have you tried talking to them about their "singing voices" as opposed to their "speaking voices"?
Sometimes just suggesting that they use their "singing voices" does the trick.
One Two Three Echo Me has some games/exercises that address that problem. Sometimes having them echo in a higher pitch helps, although I've found some older children that echo better in a lower pitch.
I've heard of teachers that sing to them (very softly) through a tube set on their ear.
I like to demonstrate pitch matching with two puppets. I purposely sing too high, then too low, then just right. I have the students tell me which is which.

~Laura Bartolomeo
I do these things mainly with K-3. I begin every class with echo clapping and echo vocalization. The vocalization consists of sirens up and down, animal sounds, little dog yap, big dog woof, birds: polly wants a cracker (high voice), owl (whoo-whoo high) Minnie Mouse in high voice: "Hello Mickey", Mickey Mouse in slightly lower voice: "Hello Minnie", just anything to get them to use the full range of their voices in a fun way.
I also use S-M "yoo-hoo" for a million things from just echoing (I do it mid-range, but also really high and really low) to singing it mid-range as I add movements such as head to shoulders, wiggle fingers, pull my ears. I found out by accident that when they think it's a silly game, those who tend to be non-singers, sing their hearts out when they think the point is to wiggle their fingers or nod their head or whatever movement I'm doing at the same time.
I almost never talk about their singing voice. We just play lots of games.
Another "yoo hoo" use. I sing a food and if they like that food I tell the class in general to "yoo hoo". I tell them that if they don't like that food DON'T yoo hoo and that I'll watch and see what foods they like and what foods they don't like and that when they come over to my house to eat sometime, I'll know just what to have for them. :) They think that's so great. Sometimes I'll just use a particular food such as food at McDonald's so I'll sing:
(McNuggets S-S-M) they go YooHoo (S-M) if they like it, nothing if they don't. (Chocolate milkshake S-S-S-M) etc. Sometimes after a particularly enthusiastic response I'll say, "Oh, that's definitely on my menu for when you come to my house".
My answer is quite lengthy, but in classroom use, I'd use one or two of these ideas at the start of class for about 90 seconds to 2 minutes tops.I have tons of other little vocal games and exercises too, but those are just a few of my favorites.

Tone Deaf Annals of Neurology researchers led by Isabelle Peretz of the University of Montreal said Tone-deafness, formally known as amusia, may occur in as much of 4 percent of the population. A person can be born tone deaf or develop the problem as a result of injury or illness. They could instantly detect an abnormal response when a tone-deaf person heard a note using an EEG to measure brain activity. The problem is on the right side of the brain. Amusia is related to speech and reading disorders like dyslexia and dysphasia. All languages use intonation to express emphasis, emotion, or other such nuances, but not every language uses tone to distinguish meaning outright. When this occurs, tones are equally important and essential as phonemes (discrete sounds, for example, /t/, or /d/), and they are referred to as tonemes. Languages that make use of tonemes are called tonal languages. The majority of languages in the world are tonal languages.